The idea for presenting Othello at St. John's College in Annapolis started in a series of conversations among tutors and students with a strong interest in theater.
William Shakespeare's domestic tragedy is "particularly action oriented about the character Iago, who never met a man who knew how to love himself," said senior Brian Jones, a first-time director. "That's what the play is about."
Angry that Moor warrior Othello chose Cassio over him as his lieutenant, Iago propels the action by manipulating character against character.
In the final scene, Iago sees the results of his evil deception with little remorse. In viewing the lifeless bodies of Othello; Othello's wife, Desdemona; and his own wife, Emilia, Iago might be described as a sociopath, created by Shakespeare centuries before the word was coined.
This drama was well-told at the final dress rehearsal Sept. 21.
Most essential to any Othello production is having strong actors to play Othello and Iago, and here a high degree of professionalism was evidenced by retired tutor Robert Williamson in the title role and by tutor Louis Petrich as Iago.
Set on his inexorable course, Williamson's Othello is an authoritative military general with a human vulnerability and a love for his bride, Desdemona, that devolves from an affectionate passion to raging jealousy that turns into cruel disdain.
Petrich's subtle portrayal of Iago is filled with intelligence, steely charm and adroit calculations to expose others' weaknesses.
Petrich presents a fearsome, cool sociopath who frightens us with his degree of evil and lack of emotion.
Tutor Michael Gremke is excellent as Barbantio, the loving father of Desdemona. Most impressive is tutor Joanna Tobin, who brings dignity and fire to the role of Emilia.
Most of the students deliver their lines with feeling and clarity. Senior Geremy Coy conveys a gamut of emotions as Cassio, while looking absolutely right for the part.
Senior Alex Claxton is a strong Roderigo, Desdemona's former suitor.
Lovely as Desdemona, junior Magdalen Wolfe is convincing in early scenes where she displays evidence of her previous sheltered life and courage in choosing a husband whom her father considers a barbarian.
In later scenes, Wolfe grows stronger when proclaiming her innocence and finally in resignation at her fate.
Sophomore Elisabeth McClure gives a multidimensional portrayal of the seductive and fiery Bianca, who loves Cassio.
Director Jones moves the action at a brisk pace, managing to tell the tale without benefit of scenery, although he does have his cast beautifully costumed through the resources of Annapolis Opera Company.
The final performance of Othello will be held at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow in Francis Scott Key Auditorium on the St. John's campus.
Audience members will be asked for a $5 donation to benefit survivors of Hurricane Katrina.